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About Leela

A THEATRE WITH PURPOSE

Leela translates to the Cosmic Play of Consciousness and finds its roots in the ancient Indian scriptures that describe the Universe as a Divine Play. The Divine creates freely, merely for the joy of it, and out of spontaneous creativity. The heart of Leela’s purpose is to provide an avenue for individuals to explore and express their creativity through collaborative theatre productions, workshops, and play readings, and to evolve to their highest potential. 

 

Leela's vision is to provide an avenue for individuals to explore and express their creative potential and evolve through theatre.

Leela is a sponsored project of the Austin Creative Alliance.

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Artistic Director

Sharanya Rao is a creative powerhouse who awakens clarity and transformation - through coaching and theatre. Her love for theatre and writing followed her from childhood through her professional career. She began her journey as a playwright at the age of 16, by writing a suspense thriller that centered on the social theme of child abuse. While studying in law school in Singapore, she taught creative writing, speech, and drama. Sharanya has a Performer’s Certificate and a Teacher’s Diploma in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. 

 

Sharanya enjoys a broad spectrum of creative writing spanning over 30 years – poems, articles, movie reviews, and plays. In 2002, she wrote and directed a 90-minute theater production, “Yatra – A Journey Into the Unknown” with a cast of 30 young adults. After moving to Austin and working for the State government in 2006, Sharanya has explored different avenues to keep alive her passion for theatre and writing. She was the writer and executive producer for a short film, Sarathi - The Charioteer (2010) which screened in several cities in the US, India, and Singapore, and was also part of the Short Film Corner at the 64th Cannes International Film Festival. She also wrote and directed two short plays which were performed at Frontera Fest 2012. Her play, "The Forgotten Trail" was also featured as part of Lucky Chaos' production of "Cheese and Other Oddities" at the Salvage Vanguard Theater in 2012.  In the following year, she directed a double-bill production of "Pants & Perceptions" in collaboration with Lucky Chaos Productions.

 

After a hiatus from theatre to channel her creative energy to her 2 young kids, she is currently working on a book of poetry. As the Artistic Director of Leela, she aims to provide a platform for all forms of theatre and explore themes relevant to the Indian community in the Greater Austin area. 

 

The heart of Leela’s purpose is to provide an avenue for individuals to explore and express their creativity through collaborative theatre productions, workshops, and play readings, and to evolve to their highest potential. For more information about Leela - An Indian Community Theatre, please contact Sharanya Rao at austinleela@gmail.com. Follow Leela's updates at facebook.com/leelacommunitytheatre and learn more about exciting upcoming programs.

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Head of Production

Itisha Tyagi loves the stage; a love that manifests in various forms; including acting, producing, presenting, hosting programs, or just enjoying productions as an audience member.

As an actor, Itisha has performed in both stage and film productions including “Sarathi - The Charioteer” which was part of the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. Her stage experiences include several of Leela's productions (‘The Uninvited Guest’, ‘Pants & Perceptions’, ‘Brown Men Don't Swim’, ‘The Forgotten Trail’), Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap', and other productions in Hindi like ‘Dhai Aakhar Prem Ka’, 'Til ka Taad', and 'Agni aur Barkha'.  She acted in and was the stage manager for a Texas-touring stage production, 'Lanka'. She has directed Ayn Rand’s ‘The Night of January 16th’ and was instrumental in bringing "The Blue Mug", a play by renowned Bollywood actors, to Austin.
 
Being a professional in the semiconductor industry and a mother, she takes every opportunity in her free time to nurture the joy she derives from the performing arts.

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Director of Development

Lindsay Frenkel Razzaz is a writer, catalyst, and community builder.  She is energized by the art & structure of living together beautifully and is currently weaving these concepts into two books: The Neighborhood Playbook & the breeze that stirs everything.

 

Lindsay joined Leela in 2023 when she & Sharanya co-authored a play, The Uninvited Guest.  Leela’s production of this play introduced Lindsay to an immersive approach to theater and a new community of female actors.  She remembers, “As we explored TUG’s themes of grief & personal emergence in our own lives, our connection to each other grew, our creative capacity deepened and the script gained new life & real meaning.  As a writer, it was a transformative experience to co-author a play for the first time, and to be so intimately involved in its production.”  Lindsay also played a supporting role in Anklets in the Boardroom.

 

Professionally, Lindsay has worked across nonprofit, public & technology sectors, building organizational capacity, partnerships & collective strategy.  She holds a Master of Public Affairs, a Bachelors in both Sustainable International Development and Communications, and a belief in the power of inspired co-creation. 

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Head of Marketing and Outreach

Smita has been immersed in theater since a young age in India through a program in Mumbai that operated under the umbrella of the Trinity College of London. She earned certificates in Honors for acting and Improvisation starting around age 8 all the way until she left India at 15. After that she mainly experienced theater as an avid patron of major theater productions in the different cities she lived in. She is a writer and is planning to publish her first novella in 2023.

 

Smita is a professional dentist and she has managed her own small business for several years in Houston, Texas. She is skilled in marketing and branding, turning a small flailing business to an amazing success. Smita will also be performing in some of Leela's productions and is excited to jump back into the world of on stage performance again.

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Head of Finance

Arvind Viswanath is an Engineer by day and a musician at heart. Perhaps one of the rarest brown jazz players in America, Arvind has played the saxophone in the production, Pants & Perceptions, as a musician on the set of Brown Men Don't Swim. He was an avid band member in high school and continued his love for jazz playing in a band in Columbia, Missouri. He jams in his free time when he is not busy managing his two kids and profession.

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